Writing Archive

Pushing Over Four Monitors: A Proposal for P.S.1

Miami Art Exchange, February 5, 2001

Project Description. On display at P.S.1 (Queens, New York) are four monitors that have been set up to play video recordings of work by Santiago Sierra. Pushing Over Four Monitors will consist of Franklin Einspruch (hereafter referred to as the artist) pushing these four monitors off of their pedestals in methodical, deliberate succession, resulting in their destruction and the discontinuation of their video feeds.

Project Background. Sierra's work explores exploitive situations and the degrading nature of useless labor. The videos are shown in conjunction withan installation at P.S.1 entitled 360 Remunerated Hours, which consists of a brick wall bisecting an exhibition space. Someone was paid to reside behind this wall for 15 days. A slot in the bottom of the wall was used to provide the person with food and a means for communicating with people on the other side. Four monitors on the viewer's side of the wall replay Sierra's earlier projects, one of which involved a group of men in Havana who were paid about $30 each to have a line tattooed on their backs that would be level when the men lined up shoulder to shoulder.

Pushing Over Four Monitors would serve as a visceral and dramatic response to Sierra's work as a whole, exploring issues of authenticity, critical response, the artist-audience dynamic, and the necessary destructive aspect of the creative process.

Project Philosophy. Because of potential objections by the staff of P.S.1, probably involving charges of vandalism, the artist is not going to request permission to execute this project. Justifications are as follows.

1. Sierra's works of art were events, called actions by P.S.1. Now that they have taken place, they are inalterable history. Sierra's art itself is thereby immune to damage.

2. Pushing Over Four Monitors is also an event, designed to serve an expressive purpose, and is thus a work of art. In format, it differs from Sierra's work in only one respect: it lacks P.S.1's permission. If P.S.1elects to retaliate against the artist legally, it will be engaging in the following:

2a. Censorship, and

2b. Elitism, by admitting that institutional permission is the only distinguishing mechanism by which work in this genre can be classified as art.

3. Since the brick wall in 360 Remunerated Hours is slated to be demolished and removed at the institution's expense, P.S.1 clearly has an ample budget to address the destruction of objects on its premises.

4. In comparison, the death penalty has been described as killing people to demonstrate that killing people is wrong. Sierra's work is similar in that it pays people to do useless things to demonstrate that paying people to do useless things is wrong. Both are failures of logic, but the death penalty is an attempt at a social remedy, whereas Sierra's work, at best, can only add to the problem it protests against. Thus it is easier to justify the death penalty than Sierra's art. Pushing Over Four Monitors would also act as a social remedy, by demonstrating against an insipid body of work and discontinuing its display. While it is a similar failure of logic, it would share the death penalty's justifiability.

Conclusion. The artist would like to thank P.S.1 for this opportunity and looks forward to its enthusiastic cooperation. It is exciting to consider the possibilities and expressive potential of this cutting-edge genre, and the artist believes that P.S.1 is nurturing a line of creative inquiry that will only become more viable.

Word count: 573

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